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Some Air Force questions

  1. Jan 7, 2013 #1
    Hi everyone

    I know I might overuse these guidance forums, but I am very curious! I was thinking about the airforce as a career tonight while bored and I have quite a few questions for anyone who might know about the Air Force career paths:

    Please keep in mind that I'm not really interested in doing anything other than being a pilot (astronaut)...If I'm not qualified for that position then I'd rather just keep on doing what Im doing.

    So, if you were a budding graduate interested in going for a pilot position in the airforce...what would you be doing right now? I meet most if not all of the qualifications. I will be getting my degree in mathematics and one in spanish, high GPA, and i'll be 22 when I graduate. I have bad vision but it can be fixed with military PRK surgery (common nowadays I hear). I am slightly overweight but I could easily knock the excess off before going in(I actually lost 50 pounds last year).

    One thing is I want to get at least my Master's degree in Nuclear Engineering, which will probably take 1.5-2 years after I graduate. So I'd be 24 before I could apply to the Officer Candidate School.

    So a couple of my questions are:
    Does a master's degree differentiate you from the other pilot candidates or does the administration not care, as long as you meet the basic requirements?

    Along the same lines, would it be better to get my master's degree before I go in (and pay for it) in order to have a better chance at being selected for a fighter or astronaut position, or should I wait and let the Air force pay for my graduate school after I get out.

    Is it really reasonable to commit 12 years of your life (2 yrs training + 10 yr commitment)? By the time I get out, I will be either 34 or 36 depending on when I do my master's, and I still want to do the PhD afterwards, which would put me starting my professional career at age 38 or 40. Nobody would hire me! (or would they?)

    Should I try to haul butt through school, get my PhD when I'm 27-28, barely make the age cutoff, and apply to OCS at the last minute? I don't like the pressure of that idea. It would only take one slip up to delay my research in graduate school and I'd be screwed.

    They say people with some flight experience are given preference. Should I try to get my pilots license, which costs about 10,000 bucks?

    Thanks for the help.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 7, 2013 #2


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    http://www.airforceots.com/portal/index.php [Broken] Talk to these folks over here. They'll answer your question.

    Keep in mind you'll more than likely be rejected for OTS if you state you only want to be a pilot. The Air Force gets more than it share of people who want to be fighter pilots, and very few guys and gals will get the honor. You join the Air Force because you want to serve your country and like what the Air Force does. Sure you may have a goal of becoming a pilot, but even then you need to accept that in reality the only people who do become pilots come from the Air Force Academy, not OTS. I do encourage you to become a TACP or JTAC :D!

    Anyway, as for starting your PhD after a career in the Air Force, not likely. Odds are you'll have a family, be used to make real money and the prospect of leaving all that for a PhD (aka an unstable career prospect in science) will probably be seen as crazy, even by you. Nevertheless, assuming you even decided that you really wanted that PhD, then you would have probably loss a ton of essential information you need to succeed in graduate school. Instead of information regarding your field of interest, all you'll know about is minimum safe distance of a Mk-82, rigging a GBU 52, weight variance, and myriad of other complex things a pilot needs to be aware of (assuming you do become a pilot.)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  4. Jan 9, 2013 #3
    Hi! I'm an Army officer. I'm assuming you would want to go AFROTC? I will answer these questions as if you do.

    Extremely competitive. Hardly a guarantee. In fact, it's hardly even a fair gamble.

    At least you're young. For a pilot slot in the Army, the average GPA was about a 3.8.

    With how competitive it is to just get IN to the Air Force, I doubt that a waiver would be granted to you. Even the near-perfect cadets that competed well at camp, had stellar GPA, perfect PT etc. did not get a pilot slot when their eyes weren't perfect. I don't even know if they actually allow people with PRK to fly - they say that they do, but I haven't actually seen it happen.

    I know we are kicking out soldiers who are overweight. I would certainly make sure that you meet the height/weight standards.

    Not true. You could to ROTC. You have a better shot at getting active duty that way, since OCS is EXTREMELY backed up in the Air Force. However, as with OCS and ROTC, your job is not guaranteed. It goes needs of the Air Force. THEY tell YOU what your job will be.

    They will care later, when you want to become a major. Before then, it doesn't matter. But, as I said before, it is EXTREMELY competitive JUST to get a slot in the Air Force - ROTC is almost always your best bet when it comes to trying to get into active duty. If you don't mind the Guard, OCS takes less time.

    If you let the Air Force pay for it, you will owe additional time. I owe a total of 12 years.

    I know that management will hire a captain like there's no tomorrow. But, if you ONLY want a flight slot, you might HATE what you're doing, because you're probably not getting one with your eyes and weight issue.

    Why would you do that? People go to Phoenix for their master degrees.

    You should see if you can even get a slot in the first place. Lose your weight, get good grades, and see what you can do. I don't think getting your pilots license matters so much as you actually FLYING. Like having actual experience.
  5. Jan 9, 2013 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    The Air Force has something like 65,000 officers and something like 4000 airplanes. That should give you a ballpark idea of how competitive a pilot's slot will be. 1000 of those airplanes are trainers, so it's even more competitive than it looks.
  6. Jan 9, 2013 #5

    Many people who get close to airplanes are mechanics. :-/
  7. Jan 11, 2013 #6
    Many moons ago when I had no gray hairs, my AIAA student chapter arranged a sweet deal to visit Eglin AFB in Florida, where they have lots of engineering laboratories and do a lot of engineering testing on way-cool military stuff. It was a thinly-disguised recruiting trip for the USAF, but still fun. I had similar career desires and asked similar questions.

    In summary, this was the USAF's position:
    • Because you are engineering students, we at the USAF want to recruit you to become career USAF Engineering Officers. Stick with us long enough, and you can pursue as much education as you want (as long as it fits their needs and it usually does).
    • We don't want to recruit engineers to be pilots. We have a greater need for engineers. If you insist on being a pilot, then you need to talk to someone else in the USAF, just not us.
    • If you want to learn to fly, then there are many, many avenues within the USAF community from which you can get this training for non-military aircraft.

    This was a three decades ago, but I suspect their position hasn't changed much.

    Slightly overweight and poor vision? I suspect, even with improvements, that you would rank wa-a-a-a-y down the list, behind the hundreds that have none of those issues.

    Concerning the time commitment. In retrospect, after suffering through corporate dysfunction for 30 years, I wonder if retiring as a Colonel or perhaps even a General in the USAF with a government-paid Ph.D. or two, and with all the military benefits would have been a better option.
  8. Jan 13, 2013 #7
    Hmm..Well thanks everyone for the replies. You have knocked some sense into me. I talked in person to a professor at GA Tech and he said that my background is reasonable to apply for their Ph.D. program. I think I will just continue with my studies and get a job in industry, and perhaps get my pilot licenses on my own.
  9. Jan 13, 2013 #8


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    This is a question directed to FalconOne and Vanadium 50:

    This may seem to be a silly question, but since both of you have stated that it is very competitive to be selected as a pilot while in the Air Force (as Vanadium 50 has quoted, there are approximately 65,000 officers and 4000 planes, of which 3000 may be in active use), what do the majority of the remaining officers in the Air Force do?

    FalconOne stated that many of them are mechanics, and tygerdawg mentioned engineering officers as well, but I can't imagine that there would be a need for that many mechanics for a limited number of planes, and I would assume that there wouldn't be that many engineers working in the Air Force.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2013
  10. Jan 13, 2013 #9

    Vanadium 50

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    Non-pilot flying (navigator, weapons, air battle management, etc.), missile launch officer, aircraft maintenance, logistics and supply, personnel, intelligence, weather, air traffic control, communications, health care, public affairs, civil engineering, law, finance, explosive ordinance disposal, and bandleaders.

    I am sure I missed a ton.
  11. Jan 13, 2013 #10


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    I see. The main reason I had asked what Air Force officers do is because it is somewhat unique within the military in its focus on flight and aerial transportation (the Navy have pilots of their own who fly off of ships, and from what I've heard becoming a Naval pilot is even more competitive).

    Therefore, I was curious as to what Air Force officers do other than pilot or maintain aircraft (or perform duties that are not unique to any one branch of the military such as health care, public affairs or law).

    BTW, I may be mistaken about this, but wouldn't there be more civil engineers working in the Army (say, through the US Army Corps of Engineers) than in the Air Force?
  12. Jan 13, 2013 #11


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    Air forces mission is not just to fly. Even if it was there is a lot of jobs needed in order for that job to be done. For example, computer network mangement, air control, fuelers, drivers, planners, future planners, acquisition, ammo, electronic experts, electronic warfare, combat controllers, weather, satellite imagery, people who run monte carlo for cde, etc.

    As for more civil engineers in the army, there probably is. However by ratio the air force beats the army when it comes to high tech majors. Us grunts only want physically fit guys willing to go into the suck, the air force needs smart guys to handle all the equipment they have.
  13. Jan 14, 2013 #12


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    I see. Thanks for the clarification about the role of the Air Force.

    As for high tech majors, I would also think that the Navy will also tend to have many high tech majors, given the need for logistics, operations around large ships, etc.
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